Key Customer Service Soft Skills to Stay Competitive
2020 was an unprecedented year for businesses. The pandemic forced businesses to adapt to a new landscape to keep customers happy.
Research found that 67% of companies decreased marketing budgets and 62% increased budgets for customer service.
Businesses are clearly focusing on improving customer service rather than clever marketing to keep their competitive edge.
The stakes are high as 32% of customers will drop your brand after one bad experience.
It’s no wonder that businesses are starting to move to a more customer-centric service model and away from a marketing-first model.
How Important Is Customer Service?
Moving forward beyond the pandemic, we are starting to see a clear shift in how customers interact with businesses.
Customers are more likely than ever to assess potential service providers online and the number of touchpoints you have with them is skyrocketing.
As a result, businesses must now provide exceptional customer service both in person and online to succeed.
But what is exceptional customer service?
Exceptional customer service for small business entails showing genuine care and understanding so customers feel heard and appreciated.
This is important because customer expectations are higher than ever. In fact, 84% of customers consider customer service as important as the product or service provided.
In this article, we’ll talk about the five most useful customer service soft skills your team should ace to keep your customers happy and, most importantly, coming back.
5 Useful Customer Service Skills for Success
1. Customer Service Patience
Patience is a core value in customer service. It starts with understanding that employees play multiple roles for customers.
Sometimes the customer is in a hurry and gets to the point quickly. Other times, they seize the opportunity for a chat.
While supporting customers, the employee plays the role of confidant, information source or even an outlet upon whom customers vent their frustration.
Employees should also understand that the customer might ask what seems like silly questions. That’s only because they don’t know any better.
It’s often necessary to explain the same concepts several times over. Knowing how to deal with each situation requires tact and patience.
Another useful customer service skill is to actively listen to what the customer says.
Employees may try to steer the conversation through thoughtful questions, but don’t interrupt the customer. Instead of assuming an answer, let the customer complete their thoughts.
Doing so demonstrates to the customer that the employee is interested in what they’re saying and allows the employee to pick up clues about the customer’s frustration.
Employees can demonstrate listening by:
- Rephrasing the customer’s query to ensure that they understand it correctly.
- Asking questions to clarify important points.
- Mirroring their tone of voice to create a connection. When the customer is frustrated, it’s best, for example, to lower your voice tone to deescalate the situation.
2. Customer Service Empathy
Empathy takes patience a step further. It entails not only listening, but truly understanding the customer’s point of view.
Customer service empathy isn’t always an easy skill to master but it’s just as essential. It comes in handy for both the employee and the customer.
With empathy, the employee understands where the customer’s frustration lies and doesn’t take it personally.
This is one of the most useful customer service skills, especially when employees have a customer shouting at them.
The customer benefits because the employee understands their motivation.
Showing empathy deescalates tense situations and helps the customer see that the employee is genuinely interested in them.
3. Excellent Communication Skills
Communication skills encompass a broad range of topics. Great communicators read situations well and adapt their approach with verbal and visual cues to convey the correct message.
Here are some tips to improve your communication skills:
- Speak clearly and with enough volume to be heard: It frustrates customers when they have to ask employees to repeat themselves. Some customers may even feel embarrassed, so they might leave without the correct solution to their issue.
- Slow the conversation down: Slowing things down makes it easier to enunciate words and ensures that the customer has time to digest what the employee says.
- Use simple language and avoid jargon: Employees should avoid sounding too condescending or overly technical. Speaking to customers using simple language ensures that they understand without feeling that the employee is talking down to them.
- Be responsive, friendly and polite: Try to smile while speaking and remain responsive even after the job is done. Also monitor what's being said online and respond to customer reviews. Here are some negative review response examples to help.
- Adapt your tone and approach for the audience: It’s crucial to adapt to each situation. An angry customer, for example, may respond well to a lower tone of voice. A chatty customer might prefer a more upbeat style.
- Show the customer respect: It is never appropriate to disrespect a customer. The customer isn’t always correct, but they pay for the service or product. Treating each customer with respect helps to build trust and improve the relationship.
It may help employees to run a series of roleplaying exercises to improve their skills. Employees may even use acting exercises to help them deliver the performance of their lives!
4. Positive Communication
Using positive communication improves the customer’s experience. The two examples below demonstrate the difference between positive and negative language:
- “We’ll have more in stock next week and can call you when it comes in.”
- “We’re out of stock and can’t get more until next week.”
Both statements say the same thing essentially, but the tone is very different.
Saying, “We’re out of stock” stops the conversation dead and ends it on a negative note. It explains the issue but doesn’t provide a clear solution.
By saying, “We’ll have more on stock next week,” the employee turns a problem into a solution.
It’s a slight change to make, but positive communication goes a long way towards improving your service experience.
5. Problem-Solving Abilities
Life is unpredictable. Customer service employees face evidence of this daily.
Customers may ask the same question in a hundred different ways or come up with queries no one expected.
A customer service employee needs the ability to think on their feet. The following are key ways to help employees do this:
- Each employee should have thorough knowledge of company systems and procedures to provide quick, accurate answers.
- Businesses should provide a knowledge base that’s easy to search and a cheat list of commonly asked questions.
- When the employee cannot solve the query independently, they need to quickly identify who the best person to deal with the question is.
- Write down all information so the customer doesn't have to repeat themselves and give them the timeframe for a follow-up call.
Always have employees follow up to ensure a sufficient solution. Learning how to solve problematic queries is an excellent way to improve service delivery in the future.
Even if they never receive the same query again, they’ll have improved their problem-solving abilities.
How to Improve Customer Service
As you can see, the five customer service skills listed above mostly center on communication.
How employees listen to the customer, what they say and how they say it can make or break the relationship and also define brand loyalty. Communication is essential.
You can inspire your employees with these amazing quotes on customer service to help them develop their communication skills.
Also implement small changes like smiling through the phone, rephrasing message delivery and having systems to resolve queries so your employees can improve their customer service skills.
Providing great customer service is essential so you can retain and delight customers.
And with more happy customers, you can get more reviews and positive feedback so you can take advantage of reputation marketing.
If you don’t have the capacity to deliver in-house support, companies like SupportYourApp can help. It never hurts to add another support layer to strengthen the customer experience.
The important thing is that you make sure your business is focused on delivering exceptional customer service, day in and day out!